Saint Thomas Aquinas

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Cardinal George and the Mormons

I ran across an article about an address given by Cardinal George at BYU on Feb 23rd, 2010. Below is some of what the Cardinal had to say. I don't have a problem with the first quote, but I do have a major problem with the second.

“I’m personally grateful that after 180 years of living mostly apart from one another, Catholics and Latter-day Saints have begun to see one another as trustworthy partners in the defense of shared moral principles and in the promotion of the common good of our beloved country,” he said.

“Our churches have different histories and systems of belief and practice, although we acknowledge a common reference point in the person and the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Cardinal George is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the first Chicago native to become archbishop of Chicago. He presides over 2.3 million Catholics in the Chicago Archdiocese. 

So, let me ask, how can Catholics and Mormons share a common reference point on the gospel of Jesus Christ? Was the Cardinal just talking about the having the New Testament Scriptures in common? I don't even think you can say that we have a common reference point in the person of Jesus Christ, because the Mormons do not recognize Christ as being the God of the Nicene Creed. The only thing we have in common is using the name, Jesus Christ. Mormons do not hold that Jesus is the only Son of God, being one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. They believe that Jesus and Satan are basically equals. I don't know what in the world the dear Cardinal was thinking when he said this. Below are a few facts that should make it quite clear that Mormonism has no common reference point to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is proclaimed by His one and only, Catholic Church.

From an address to the Harvard Divinity School in March 2001 by Robert L. Millet, former dean of religious education at Brigham Young University. (Newsroom)

Latter-day Saints do not accept the Christ that emerges from centuries of debates and councils and creeds. Over the years that followed the death and resurrection of the Lord, Christians sought to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). We believe that the epistles of Paul, Peter, Jude and John suggest that the apostasy or falling away of the first-century Christian church was well underway by the close of the first century. With the deaths of the apostles and the loss of the priesthood, the institutional power to perform and oversee saving sacrament or ordinances, learn the mind of God and interpret scripture was no longer on earth.

The First Vision. Joseph Smith’s First Vision represents the beginning of the revelation of God in our day. President Gordon B. Hinckley has observed: “To me it is a significant and marvelous thing that in establishing and opening this dispensation our Father did so with a revelation of himself and of his Son Jesus Christ, as if to say to all the world that he was weary of the attempts of men, earnest through these attempts might have been, to define and describe him. … The experience of Joseph Smith in a few moments in the grove on a spring day in 1820, brought more light and knowledge and understanding of the personality and reality and substance of God and his Beloved Son than men had arrived at during centuries of speculation.”

The Book of Mormon. Through the Book of Mormon, translated by Joseph Smith, came additional insights concerning the person and powers of Jesus the Christ.

More from Mormon.org.

Throughout time, God has given His servants, the prophets, the authority to act in His name.  This authority is called the priesthood. Jesus Christ gave the priesthood to His original Twelve Apostles, and they directed the work of His Church after Jesus ascended to heaven.  After the Apostles were killed, the priesthood gradually disappeared from the earth.

In 1829, Joseph Smith received the restored priesthood authority to organize Christ’s Church.  John the Baptist appeared and conferred upon Joseph Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic Priesthood, which includes the authority to perform the ordinance of baptism.  Later, Peter, James, and John (three of Christ’s original Apostles) appeared and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, restoring the same authority given to Christ’s Apostles anciently.  In 1830, with this priesthood authority, the same Church of Jesus Christ that existed centuries ago was organized and restored to the earth by Joseph Smith. 
A living prophet—the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—is the authorized successor to Joseph Smith.  He and the present Apostles trace their authority to Jesus Christ in an unbroken chain of ordinations through Joseph Smith.
Here is another source explaining how Joseph Smith received his new "revelations."Source

According to family tradition, the young seer retired to his bedroom one evening after discussing the Bible with his parents and siblings. In a night vision he saw an angelic messenger who told him that his sins were forgiven and that he would uncover an ancient record buried near their home. The next day, working in the fields alongside his older brother, he fainted from lack of sleep and again saw the messenger who commanded him to go and retrieve the sacred record.
He found the book, which was inscribed in an unknown script on gold leaves, hidden in a stone box with a pair of eye-glasses, the lenses of which were made of diamonds the size of "an English crown only slightly thicker." By looking through the glasses, then at an opaque seer stone placed in a hat, the book's script appeared as illuminated English words. He published his translation as the Book of Mormon. Later, in a friend's bedroom, Joseph was impressed to ordain elders and to organize a new church. Almost immediately his followers performed miracles, beginning with a dramatic levitation and exorcism which inaugurated the restoration of primitive Christianity. 


These are some of the most blasphemous and outrageous claims I have ever seen! For someone to be so gullible as to think that the Christian faith disappeared off the face of the earth for 1800 years, only to be reestablished by some nut job with some magic glasses is quite ridiculous. What is more ridiculous is that a Cardinal would think that all of this is a common point of reference of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Am I missing something here? If so, please explain.If I offended any Mormons, I am sorry, but I just cannot believe people actually buy into this cult.


48 comments:

rsolis89 said...

Matthew,

Amen!! I could not agree with you more!!!

Ruben

Destine' said...

AS a former Methodist, and former attendee of Catechism as a child, now a Mormon Christian the past 30 years,I think is wiser to ask on e of us what we believe. Never, never have I ever heard, nor been told we place that evil one known as Satan on any equal footing with our great Savior, the son of God.
What do we have in common? Do you realize your Bishops robes have our ancient Temple symbols? The ancient gospel had many symbols to remind us of our covenants with God. WHy are symbols used in our churches and not other Christian housed of worship (except the cross)? Because, in this world that tried to destract us from all that is good, it is wise to remember who we stand for, who we give thanks to for our lives, our blessings and even our trials. He is ope and prayers that we both, Catholics and Mormon Christian serve HIm with all our earts, minds and might. Working together to show the world His love is for all, that all mankind can comeunto Him. We must show love and tolernace for eachother, not tolerance of sin, but love and tolerance of the sinner, patience in teaching with the spirit as our guide, God bless. He is present in unity, not in contention. He also knows your needs, you sorrows and your search for truth. He knows your confusions and frustrations in this imperfect world. "Peace,I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as this world giveth,I give unto to you.Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid..."John 17:14 And when the acient inhabitants of America had been taught of CHrist by their prophet Samuel, and the sign of his coming was long past,and they were about to be put to death by the unbelievers, they prayed. And the Lord himself said "Lift up your head and be of good cheer, for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fullfill all that I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets."3rd Nephi Book of Mormon.
Ahhh, the storie's of Gods dealings with men are wonderful and endless!For remember He is endless.

Seth R. said...

I don't think we Mormons can be held accountable for not following a doctrine when even you Catholics don't have the foggiest idea what it means.

What the heck is the Trinity under Nicea supposed to mean anyway?

How do three beings share the same "substance?" And what the heck does "substance" even mean anyway? Anyone here know?

Can anyone here give me a single concrete illustration of the Trinity doctrine that isn't either modalist or tri-theist?

How about we take Augustine's explanation of the Trinity - he broke it down into four propositions:

1. There is one God
2. The Father is God
3. The Son is God
4. The Father is not the Son

Now, take any THREE of those points and you have a coherent statement.

Take 1, 2, and 3 and you have modalism - one God with split personalities, or who wears different hats. But that's a recognized heresy for Catholics, so that's out.

Take 2, 3, and 4 and you have tri-theism. Yet again, a doctrine that makes sense, but is condemned by the Catholic Church as heresy.

Take 1, 2, and 4 and you have subordinationalism - the idea that the Son is merely a subordinate to the real God - the Father. Again, a heresy.

Take 1, 3, and 4 and you have the idea that the Son replaced the Father as God - another condemned heresy.

All heresies. But all of them at least make a statement of belief that is coherent - that isn't utter nonsense. That isn't completely self-contradictory and self-defeating.

But mix all four together and you have a complete non-statement. It denies the very thing it affirms. In a word - gibberish.

And you propose to deny Mormons claim to worshiping Christ because we do not understand, and therefore do not follow, this utterly incomprehensible piece of nonsense?

Well, I beg your pardon, but frankly I don't see how any of you can affirm a belief in a non-statement like this either.

I order to believe something, it must be comprehended. If you can't comprehend it, you have no basis for belief.

So frankly, I don't think any of you here are any more "Trinitarian" than I am. Because none of you understand it any better than I do.

But if you feel like you've got an explanation of this piece of philosophical gobbledygook that can prove me wrong here, by all means, let's hear it.

Matthew Bellisario said...

You are surprised that you may not be able to completely understand an omnipotent God? The theological concept of the Trinity is firmly rooted in the Divine Revelation of Jesus Christ, in the Oral Kerygma and Sacred Scripture. It however can never be fully understood by the human mind, to do so would make us on par with God.

If you are sincere in learning about the Holy Trinity, I suggest reading the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas' Prima Pars of the Summa Theologiae, Questions 27-43 and all related articles.

Hilary says (De Trin. i), "Let no man think to reach the sacred mystery of generation by his own mind." And Ambrose says (De Fide ii, 5), "It is impossible to know the secret of generation. The mind fails, the voice is silent." But the trinity of the divine persons is distinguished by origin of generation and procession (30, 2). Since, therefore, man cannot know, and with his understanding grasp that for which no necessary reason can be given, it follows that the trinity of persons cannot be known by reason. Q32, A1

"Reply to Objection 1. The definition of "person" includes "substance," not as meaning the essence, but the "suppositum" which is made clear by the addition of the term "individual." To signify the substance thus understood, the Greeks use the name "hypostasis." So, as we say, "Three persons," they say "Three hypostases." We are not, however, accustomed to say Three substances, lest we be understood to mean three essences or natures, by reason of the equivocal signification of the term."

Seth R. said...

As I thought. You have no clue what it means and you're punting to Aquinas.

Well, I've read the breakdowns on him, and he didn't really manage to explain it coherently either. Because the principle is inherently incoherent. It's like declaring God to be a square triangle who lives on a non-existent rock so big he can't lift it.

I gave you Augustine's formula. Probably one of the most clear statements of the Nicene Trinity ever written. And it's just plain, flat-out incoherent.

And of course, you're invoking the usual "mystery" defense.

Look, I'd be happy to simply defer to the mystery defense and leave you alone about this if you weren't using a doctrine that nobody understands as a club to beat away Mormons with.

If you just want to mind your own business and get back to your life of contemplation, worship, and good service to your fellow man, I'm more than happy to give you a free pass with the whole "mystery" thing.

But not if you're attacking Mormonism. Sorry.

The mystery defense won't fly here. God being a mystery is not an excuse for him being logically incoherent. God being "incomprehensible to the mortal mind" is not license to call him a square triangle. The two words are mutually exclusive.

Mormons believe that God cannot be fully grasped by the finite human understanding either. But we do not view him as incoherent.

We believe that if a human being were given unlimited knowledge, he or she WOULD understand the nature of God.

But the thing about the Trinity doctrine is that no matter how much knowledge you get, the Trinity will remain incoherent - because it affirms the very thing it denies.

I'm sorry, but if the only argument you've got is: "it's a mystery," and "go read this massive book" then you have no business making assertions online. I already knew that Aquinas was a prime source for explanations of the Trinity.

What I want to know is how you can call yourself a Christian under - your own criteria - when you are unable to explain this doctrine.

For all I can tell, this is something that Protestant and Catholic bloggers merely pay lip service to - but they don't really believe it.

Matthew Bellisario said...

The fact is the Trinity is revealed by God. God never says you have to understand everything, He says it is faith that pleases Him, not your understanding. If you don't like the fact that God doesn't give you the answers you want to have, then I chalk that up to arrogant pride. Do you want me to go through all of things that are contrary to logic in your Mormon religion that make absolutely no sense? The fact is, without faith, you can't please God. God revealed the Holy Trinity to us, so it is up to us to accept it.

I seriously doubt you went through the entire series in Aquinas' writings in between the time I posted them and the time you posted, so I have my doubts as to your seriousness to try and grasp what we can of the Trinity. Christendom in its entirety has accepted the Trinity as it was defined by the Ecumenical Councils, using God's own Divine Revelation that was given to us by Jesus through His own apostles. Unlike you, we can trace trace our apostolic succession.

We don't believe in the fantasy of the entire Christian religion falling off the face of the earth for 1700 years until Joseph Smith came along. Talk about an absolute denial of logic. You want to balk at a characteristic of an omnipotent God in the mystery of the Trinity, while you irrationally believe that a pair of magic eyeglasses put true Christianity back on the map after 1700 years? If that isn't much more believable??? Sure it is....

JLFuller said...
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JLFuller said...

Matthew
Well, you are right on some of what you presented. Satan, as a fallen angel, is God's off spring, just as just as Christ is. You can't say they are equals because they are not. Nor can one say we are equals with Christ even though we Christ's siblings and the sons and daughters of God. This is what our theology teaches.

Of course everyone believes his/her own faith tradition is the correct one. That goes without saying. The Cardinal I am sure would say so too. So, disagreement on theological grounds is understood but should not create a divide where unnecessary. I think that is what Cardinal George was saying. We agree that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God, our redeemer and savior. We also believe in living correct Christian principles to the best of our knowledge and ability.

JLFuller said...
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JLFuller said...

Matthew,
You said "...fantasy of the entire Christian religion falling off the face of the earth for 1700 years."

We don't teach that. What we teach is that the priesthood was removed from the earth (except John the Beloved and the three Nephites) by God when the last apostle died. The gospel, in its fullness, was restored to the earth by God the Father and Jesus Christ just as Eph 1:10 said it would. If you don't believe Ephesians then you won't believe that God has called prophets and apostles either or that He speaks to the world again through them.

JLFuller said...

NOTE: I removed the two other posts because of editing problems.

Matthew Bellisario said...

"We don't teach that. What we teach is that the priesthood was removed from the earth (except John the Beloved and the three Nephites) by God when the last apostle died."

JL, if the priesthood disappeared then for all intents and purposes, the Church was completely absent from the face of the earth until Joseph Smith supposedly brought it back. This is untenable. There is no way that God would have sent His only begotten Son to die for humanity only to have his sacrifice removed from the face of the earth for the better part of 1800 years. I am curious. What does the priesthood in Mormonism bring to mankind? What is its effect? Thanks for stopping by to discuss this.

Seth R. said...

Mormons do not claim that Jesus and Satan are equals either.

I've read a good deal of Aquinas' stuff in the past as well as a lot of commentary on his work, before I ever came to this blog. My opinions are based on that.

As for the absence of God's Church - this is a normal state of affairs for the world, if you believe the Bible.

The historical pattern of the Bible is absolutely littered with long and extensive periods of general unbelief, punctuated only by brief periods of a minority of the human race seeking him.

The fact is, throughout the history of the world, the vast majority of the human race has been bereft of God's Church. What about the billions in India and China throughout human history? Doesn't your objection to God leaving us without a church apply to them too?

Matthew, the fact is that your objection to God leaving humanity without an authorized Church is actually merely an objection to God leaving EUROPE without an authorized Church.

Does the rest of the globe not count or something?

Apostasy is, has been, and likely will be the NORM for human affairs.

Seth R. said...

And Mormonism does not have the equivalent of a completely self-contradicting doctrine like the Trinity.

Whether you believe in our doctrines or not, they do at least make sense.

Matthew Bellisario said...

"Matthew, the fact is that your objection to God leaving humanity without an authorized Church is actually merely an objection to God leaving EUROPE without an authorized Church."

Your assumption is simply not true. Christianity has been alive and well throughout most of the world, waxing and waning in different parts of the world, since the time of Christ. If you know the history of the Church you would know that the apostolic priesthood is not a European phenomenon. Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia, etc, all have authentic apostolic priesthoods.

You apparently have no conception of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which have been around since the time of Christ, all tracing back an active priesthood to the Jesus Christ and His apostles. To make a claim that the priesthood died with the last apostle is untenable.

Seth R. said...

Christianity was largely wiped out in Asia east of Damascus in the face of numerous pressures - including the spread of Islam. Only pockets of Africa have had any continuous Christian presence.

Aside from Europe, the rest of the world was largely hung out to dry by your model.

And this is not the first time this has happened. From Noah, to Abraham, holy men have always been rather lonely folks. The only persons among millions to be searching diligently for god in an apostate world.

The majority of human history has been a state of apostasy - both in light of timeline, and in light of population percentages.

I somehow doubt that the millions who died in India without even a glimmer of God's authorized church aren't particularly impressed whether the Pope can draw a pedigree chart back to St. Peter or not. For them, let's face it, it didn't make a lick of difference anyway.

As for the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox claims to direct succession line all the way back to St. Peter, they generally do a pretty impressive job demonstrating this.

Until you hit the 2nd and 1st centuries. Then the whole operation runs into an impenetrable fog bank.

The 1st and 2nd centuries of Christian history are an utter mess. No one knows what on earth occurred in those 200 years. And any claims to chain of authority throughout that period is largely speculative in nature.

JLFuller said...

Matthew
The priesthood is the authority to act in God's name. That means the authority to guide the Church and direct the preaching of the gospel throughout the world. They have the authority to administer to the sick and give special blessings to family members and others. With the authorization of presiding priesthood leaders, they can bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost and ordain other worthy men to offices. It is the same priesthood that Jesus Christ, the apostles and all the prophets of God living and dead have. It has several offices, and in the leadership role, certain keys of authority are granted to men according to their calling. It also has the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church.

JLFuller said...

As far as your comment about annuling Christ's sacrifice when the priesthood was taken, it didn't. We just have a different understanding of the how the system works. Let's put it this way: Christ's sacrifice, the atonement, is universal. By that I mean it covers every living thing that has or ever will live on the earth and every other civilization and life form on every other planet in the universe. The sacrifices on the alters the Hebrews made were in similitude to Christ's sacrifice. But the atonement was needed so that every covered being could be resurrected and not consigned to outer darkness which is where our souls would spend eternity if there was no Christ. That is what we call salvation. It is resurrection. Baptism, for example, plus the other ordinances we perform, plus a process of growth and perfection in holiness, sets the stage for eventual exaltation, which is something like theosis. We become co-inheritors of the fullness of Christ's inheritance.

We also believe those without these ordinances or a chance to hear the gospel in its fullness, will have an equal opportunity to hear it in the spirit world. They can accept it or reject it. Those who reject it become damned in the sense that they never will be inheritors.

So, just because the priesthood was taken from the earth does not mean those folks were damned for eternity and it did not interfere with the atonement.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Seth wrote,
"I somehow doubt that the millions who died in India without even a glimmer of God's authorized church..."

Response,
This is not a true statement. There had been a an apostolic presence in India since the time of the apostle St.Thomas. Have you never heard of the Malankara, Jocobite or Catholics that reside in Kerala? They are all apostolic in origin.

Seth wrote,
"The 1st and 2nd centuries of Christian history are an utter mess. No one knows what on earth occurred in those 200 years."

Response,
Once again there is no fog bank here, but the fog of your understanding of those centuries. There is a clear apostolic line of succession that dates back to the apostles, and to St. Peter through the first two centuries of the Church.

Seth wrote,
"And any claims to chain of authority throughout that period is largely speculative in nature."

So, Joseph Smith's magic glasses are not speculative in nature, as well as his supposed revelation that happened put Christianity back on the map after 1800 years of a supposed absent priesthood? Sorry, I don't buy it. It takes more wild eyed speculation to believe a story like that than the documented apostolic records of the Catholic and Orthodox Church's.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Hi, JL. I will respond to the subject of the priesthood when I get some time later today. There are some major differences on what the priesthood that was given by Christ in the first century of the Church than what you presented here. Christ's sacrifice has been completely removed from you version of the priesthood, which proves it to be fraudulent in nature. I will explain when I get more time. In the meantime, I would suggest that you read at least a part of St. Thomas' commentary on the book of Hebrews to gain a better understanding of the true priesthood.

http://www.aquinas.avemaria.edu/Aquinas-Hebrews-Sec2.pdf

Seth R. said...

You must be losing the argument here if you feel the need to bring up petty jabs about "magic spectacles."

Do you also ridicule Jesus' "magic mud" used in healing the blind man?

Or are miracles only ridiculous when they are the other side's miracles?

Seth R. said...

And do you seriously think you've redeemed your argument by pointing out that there was an isolated, marginalized, sporadic, and even heretical Christian presence in corners and pockets of India?

The numbers don't lie.

The Catholic Church missed out on administering to the vast majority of the human race. Christianity has never been a majority religion since Christ's birth. In fact, there has never been a period in the last two millenia of earth's history where you could fairly claim that the majority of the human race even had a fair shot at taking up Christianity.

So, even if you accept the Catholic Church as the legitimate heir to the apostles (which I do not), apostasy would still be the norm for human affairs.

As for chain of authority, you've failed to do anything other than make fervent declarations of unestablished claims. I'm sure you've got some scholars somewhere backing you up. I have scholars backing me up too. But at this point all either of us is doing is making declarations of belief without backing them up.

So unless you want to actually back up anything you've been saying for once, I don't think this conversation is serving any further useful purpose.

Especially considering that you only brought up the Apostasy thing as a way to divert attention from the fact that you weren't getting anywhere with your arguments on the Trinity (which was the original topic of debate here).

Typical dodge-and-deflect tactics that I've come to expect from people who aspire to attack Mormonism, but can't take the heat when it's directed on their own treasured beliefs.

JLFuller said...

Mitchell.
I am sorry, but Aquinas in not a recognized authority, in this matter anyway. His writings have value in a historical context but they are not definitive.

We will likely not agree on whose theological version is correct. My aim is just to show how the LDS version works. It is just for clarification. I rarely come across non-Mormon writers who get it right. I do not intend to change anyone's mind, just correct a few misconceptions. Converting is the Holy Ghost's job.

JLFuller said...

Like one Scottish pastor said to the LDS mission president - "For a little church you sure have a big theology." So we do. It does not fit in a small container. It is much too big to be discussed correctly in paragraphs. If readers are interested to know for a certainty what we teach on just about any topic, may I suggest they go to www.LDS.org, or http://www.lib.byu.edu/Macmillan/ for a discussion of most LDS topics. For more in-depth discussion of controversial, historical or arcane topics www.fairlds.org works although it is not affiliated with the Church. You may also find www.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu to be where the BYU egg heads submit many of their papers. I use all of these and some others for source material.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Seth writes, "The Catholic Church missed out on administering to the vast majority of the human race."

Seth, what you have said is simply not true. Are you that ignorant about how widespread the Catholic church is throughout the world? There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world in 157 of 195 countries. There are only 13 million Mormons worldwide, and over half of that is in the US. A pitiful number worldwide for the supposed savior of Christ's church, no? Who has done God's work in the world? Not your "Mormon church."

We have more Catholics in one country like Venezuela, over 19 million, than you Mormons in the entire world. So don't lecture me on the absence of the Catholic Church's presence throughout the world. The stats simply do not support your accusations.

Your "huff and puff and I'll blow your house down" attitude doesn't work with me, like it does on the poor unsuspecting ignorant people you try to peddle your fairy tale religion to by knocking on doors. Come over to my house and see how well your arguments go over.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_by_country

Seth writes, "Typical dodge-and-deflect tactics that I've come to expect from people who aspire to attack Mormonism, but can't take the heat when it's directed on their own treasured beliefs."

I have presented the facts. The facts do not support your accusations.

Seth R. said...

Matthew, as of 2002, Christians (including Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and probably Mormon as well) made up only about 32.9% of the world population.

And most of that is due to South America.

You guys have never been a majority. And to claim that the Catholic Church has been in any way, shape or form available to the majority of the human race for most of the last two millenia is simply jaw-droppingly ignorant.

And even if we do allow your completely unfounded stringing of isolated anecdotes into a trend for the Catholic Church somehow being pervasive ever since Christ died, what do we do about all the previous seven thousand years covered by the Bible?

Are you claiming that the Catholic Church - or the Jewish covenant - was somehow there for Japanese aborigines in 1000 BC? Or how about the majority of Chinese history?

And regardless of the marginal presence of Christianity in India for certain periods of that region's history, are you really trying to make the claim that everyone had a fair shot at being part of God's Bible plan?

This is beyond ridiculous.

You really do seem to be of the opinion that everyone in human history since Jesus died had a fair shot at being a Catholic.

I mean, are you reading through your comments after you post them?

And this is still, just a dodge from the Trinity subject that you seem to be avoiding now.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Seth wrote, "And regardless of the marginal presence of Christianity in India for certain periods of that region's history, are you really trying to make the claim that everyone had a fair shot at being part of God's Bible plan?

This is beyond ridiculous."

Did I ever argue that fact? No, I did not. Nice Red Herring. The fact is, you are now creating a new argument that I never put forward, and that is what is ridiculous. Are you reading what I have written over the past several posts? I refuted your argument which claims that the Christian priesthood fell off of the map after the death of the last apostle. You are the one who is making the absurd, wild eyed claim that the Catholic Church was limited to Europe, not I. I proved you wrong, so now your upset about it. So be it. The facts say otherwise.

The facts also prove that your religion has little impact on the the world today, and doesn't amount to much more than a local cult in the US. Come on, 13 million over the globe, and over half of them in the US! Compare this to 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide. Your religion amounts to a penny next to a 100 dollar bill.

As far as the Trinity goes, you will have to take that up with God and his Divine Revelation. The principle of the Holy Trinity is clear in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. The fact is, without faith you will not believe. No amount of explanation will suffice for someone as arrogant as yourself.

Seth R. said...

After making a "my religion is bigger than yours" argument, you are calling me arrogant?

OK.

As for any misunderstanding here, perhaps you ought to be more clear about what you are arguing then.

My argument was that for the majority of the people who have lived on the face of the planet - a lack of God's Church is the norm.

To refute this, you tried to throw in the existence of some marginalized presence in India, Christian portions of Africa like Ethiopia, and the history of South America since the conquistadors.

This was not a refutation because it didn't even really address my point.

As for my statement about "Europe" was simply stating that Europe is the only large chunk of real estate that has seen a continuous and prominent Catholic Church presence since Jesus' death. Almost everywhere else has seen some huge gaps in the line.

Christianity used to be huge in Asia - even extending as far as India and China. At about the time that that legendary King Arthur was said to reign in England, there were more Christians in Baghdad alone than in all of Britain.

This changed however in the face of Islam and other societal and political factors. Christianity utterly collapsed in the Middle East, and central and south Asia. It was a cataclysmic loss for the overall march of Christianity.

Even if you do grant the Catholic Church it's claims to legitimacy from St. Peter, you could still say that Mormon claims of a Great Apostasy are true based on Asia alone! That Christianity suffered an utter defeat in Asia is not a disputed historical fact.

And this doesn't even take into account the KIND of Christianity being practiced in places like Ethiopia, India, Baghdad, and other places when Christianity was at its geographic height in the Old World.

Are you familiar with the kind of Christianity that was being practiced in those places? Do you have any confidence that it wasn't quite a heretical flavor of Christianity?

If both of us are attacking arguments the other person didn't make, then perhaps we both should step back and make sure we understand what is being argued.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Seth wrote,"
"Even if you do grant the Catholic Church it's claims to legitimacy from St. Peter, you could still say that Mormon claims of a Great Apostasy are true based on Asia alone! That Christianity suffered an utter defeat in Asia is not a disputed historical fact."

How can you base your argument for the "great apostasy" on the lack of Catholicism being a dominant religion in Asia? That makes absolutely no sense. Please explain how this fact proves that Christ's priesthood has been absent from the entire earth since the death of last apostle. Usually when people make an arguments like this, they start off with a premise and then put forth facts that prove their case. So far yours looks like this.

The priesthood of Jesus Christ has been absent from the earth since the death of the last apostle, because Catholicism is not the dominant religion of Asia. Not a very strong argument I am afraid.

Seth R. said...

Again, we are not being careful with the scope of what is being argued.

Your objection was that God would not leave the world without his Church.

I countered by noting that the reality is that for the majority of the world's population (as a whole - throughout history), he did exactly that. There was no authorized church for these people.

For that specific point, what happened in Asia is a quite decisive case-in-point.

What did a Chinese person in the year 1000 AD care if there was a Pope in Rome? It's not like it did him any good, right?

Matthew Bellisario said...

Seth, by your logic, Jesus didn't do anyone any good because people have chosen to reject Him. Just because people reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not prove that the Gospel is not being preached. By your standards, Jesus was a complete failure because most of the people around Him at the time He walked the earth, rejected the Gospel that he preached. Your argument does prove anything other than the fact that a large number of people in Asia have chosen to reject God's Church. This is certainly not a valid argument.

Using your logic, Mormonism is certainly not the valid priesthood either since it has been an utter failure worldwide to convert any number of people. Using your logic there still is no valid priesthood. You religion has been around now for almost 200 years. With all of the modern technology you have at your disposal one would think that if Mormonism was the real deal you would have converted more than a mere 13 million people, of which more than half of are in the US. This equates to a mere 68000 members a year growth for your cult. Let us compare that with the true Catholic Church which boasted over 17 million in growth for one year in 2005. We have grown more in one year than your entire cult has in over 200. you are going to have to come up with a better argument that this to convince anyone of your "apostasy" theory.

Seth R. said...

When did I ever say that a religion had to reach everyone in this life to be successful?

When did I ever claim it needed to be a majority.

I'm the one who has been claiming that a state of apostasy has almost always been the NORM for human affairs - in response to your assertion that you cannot imagine God leaving people on earth without his Church for over 1000 years.

Most of the Catholic growth is coming from birth rates - same as the LDS Church.

And being the "true Church" has nothing to do with convert numbers.

Look at Noah. Are you claiming he was a false prophet because he didn't get any converts?

Mormonism has those who did not encounter the true Gospel of Christ in life covered. That's why we offer baptisms for the dead. So this isn't really an issue for us.

Final query - what do you have in mind when you use the word "cult?"

Matthew Bellisario said...

Once again, then there is nothing that proves your apostasy theory. You just got through harping on Catholicism because it hasn't converted Asia, and then you turn around and say it doesn't matter for your religion. If anything it makes Mormonism even harder to believe as being the authentic church of Christ.

Seth R. said...

Everything I've said in this thread has merely been in response to claims you have been making.

Nowhere was I even attempting to argue in favor of Mormonism.

All I was ever doing was addressing your assertions.

You can't imagine God leaving the earth without his church - I responded to that. I never said anything about whether Mormon beliefs impacted that analysis.

You are not reading carefully here. And you are trying to jump ahead to other criticisms of Mormonism when they were never at issue in the debate to begin with.

I haven't been trying to establish the Mormon restoration here. I've just been answering your arguments.

Mormons do not claim that God would never leave the earth without a Church. Not our argument. That's all you.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Seth, Jesus Christ promised that He would be with us, and that His Church would never fail to proclaim the Gospel until the end of time. The only hope you have of converting anyone is to convince them of this absurdity of Christ leaving His Church without a valid priesthood for the better part of 1800 years. That is what happens when you show up 1800 years late to the dance. You have to invent an apostasy that never happened.

Seth R. said...

I assume you are referring to Matthew 16:18 here?

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Or did you have a different scripture in mind?

Matthew Bellisario said...

There are many Scriptures that tell of us of the authority that Jesus gave to His apostles which was passed on to their successors, which would stand to the end of time. Acts 6:6-10, Col 1:25,1 Tim 3:1, 2 Tim 4:1-5, for example. We have not only the testimony of Scripture, but God's Holy Oral Kerygma which has been faithfully preached since Christ preached it. We also have the witness of the early Church which testifies to the apostolic Church being handed on faithfully through apostolic succession as well.

"But [it has, on the other hand, been shown], that the preaching of the Church is everywhere consistent, and continues in an even course, and receives testimony from the prophets, the apostles, and all the disciples…For in the Church," it is said, "God hath set apostles, prophets, teachers,' and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behavior. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:24 (A.D. 180).

"And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture a certain place, 'I will appoint their bishops s in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.'... Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry...For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties." Pope Clement, Epistle to Corinthians, 42, 44 (A.D. 98).

I could go on and on to provide ample proof that Christ's Church has never been stripped of Her priesthood. It is untenable to argue for a "great apostasy."

Seth R. said...

Well, thank you for those scriptures. Mormons are, of course, equally excited about them as supporting our own apostolic structure.

But I don't think they really demand the conclusion that no Apostasy is possible.

As for Irenaeus, he also said one or two things that Mormon scholars cite in favor of an Apostasy, if I recall correctly (I might be thinking of Polycarp or Tertullian...).

Matthew Bellisario said...

It appears to me that the priesthood already extended out past the apostles during the time the Scriptures were being written, by the testimony of Scripture itself. So the priesthood could not have ended with the death of the last apostle. When exactly does the Mormon teach that the priesthood ended? There is also an important fact regarding the New Testament Scriptures that proves there was no apostasy in the first century of the Church.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Also, if you are going to use a Church Father to try and prove the apostasy you had better have your ducks in a row. I know the Church Father's writings very well since I have to deal with Protestants taking them out of context all of the time.

JLFuller said...

Matthew
Secondary sources disagree with your contention about the apostasy. The bible doesn't contain everything. Like I said above, I am not in missionary mode here. I just wanted to explain how we come to our theological understanding. Seth has his own reasons for engaging you. It isn't my way. But if you want a broader view, I suggest you get away from traditional Christian writers. That doesn't mean they are automatically wrong, rather, others do not always start off with the end of the story in mind. Do something as simple as Googling the terms you want to research, such as Trinitarianism. See what people with other views have to say about where it came from and then do your own independent searching.

JLFuller said...

Matt
Thanks for allowing me the space to provide the LDS point of view of our theology. Too many times, readers are subjected to a barrage of the most hateful anti-Mormon vitriol. That did not happen here. You allowed me to correct misunderstandings or at least provide our side of the story. You would be surprised how often that is not allowed.

If I may, you can find correct explanations of LDS theology by going to authorized sources such as www.LDS.org, www.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/ and www.lib.byu.edu/Macmillan. If you want to get into some of the more arcane or historical discussions go to www.fairlds.org.

Another thing non-Mormons find troubliung is the discrepancy between what current leaders say and what leaders of the past say. Our recenlty departed past president , Gordon B Hinckley said it quite succinctly: "A living prophet is better than a dead one." That means prophets speak to the situations they find at hand and to their contemporary audiences. For example, Brigham Young had a particular style of communicating that worked back then for the people of the Church but would not work today. Unless the communication came with a "Thus sayeth the Lord..." it is likely opinion or non-canonical. That is where a lot of miscommunication originates. To put it another way, guidance is not always doctrine. It may be doctrinally based but not intended to suggest it is of the same level as new scripture. It can be modified or may be subject nuance or further review or it may be just somebodies latest good idea such as living the law consecration where members give most of their worldly goods to the bishop for dispersal as he sees appropriate. That was an example of Brigham Young's good idea that was not doctrinal but an experiment that didn't work out.

Seth R. said...

I'm not in missionary mode here either.

Most of my blogging activity is defensive in nature.

JLFuller said...

Some folks say we are a Church that does not follow our own teaching and that God is the same yesterday, today and forever and that we are waffling on doctrine. That isn't a correct reading of what is happening. We believe God continues to talk to us and teach us. He does this through revelation. Some is new doctrine, most is a bit different from that. I can't speak for the Church leadership but I think they would say it works like what I write here.

Revelation, that is God talking to man, is or can be a process of enlightenment. It is not always an event where a few words are the total message. It may be just a little guidance that helps the recipient in knowing where to go to further his quest for a solution to a problem.

From my own experience, personal revelation, something all people can and I think do get, follows that formula. Sometimes it is likened to intuition or a sudden bright idea. I choose to give God credit for what ever one chooses to call it. What sets the Mormon version apart is the presence of the Holy Ghost as a constant companion. That means as long as we are living correct Christian principles to best of our ability and understanding, coupled with repentance when we mess up, the Holy Ghost is there at our side and doesn't come and go. It is as though our intuition, if you call it that, is always on. To be sure we can and do disregard the promptings and wander off into la la land and the connection breaks.
We can get back into the grove though.

We look at this as a process of becoming perfect, also known as complete. It takes more than a lifetime to accomplish. I mention this because some folks consider that God does not interact with people today but is rather, just a grantor of favors. We totally disagree. He is a teacher and a mentor who knows us as individuals and understands our specific natures. As such, he provides the opportunity each person needs to grow. He is a hands on God and is involved. He is very much our literal Father and is just as interested in us as our earthly parents are. He is only distant when we cause Him to be so. We leave Him, He doesn't leave us. We can however, create a climate where the Holy Ghost can not dwell.

JLFuller said...

As far as governing the Church, He does so on a daily basis. Personal revelation is the tool by which the prophet and apostles are instructed. It is with personal revelation that every Sunday School teacher, Young Men's or Young Women's group advisor, bishop, stake president and home teacher goes about knowing what to do and how to do it. The teachers manual provides direction and lesson content and the Holy Ghost provides the inspiration on how to present it or tailor it to the class or need. Keep in mind, though, that if we were perfect people, personal revelation results would be perfect too. We have a corollary in our schools. Our teachers do not do the work for us but rather teach us to do it. Scripture is one of the tools He uses. Rather than telling us what something means, He expects us to do our own work. He wants us to use the the tools he gives us such as a brain and solid reasoning skills. Then, just as your earthly teacher, He will tell us whether we are correct or not. This a simple example but apt.

The bible is not the only tool. It is the primary one, but not the only one. John 21:25 speaks to this: "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." Logic teaches us that Christ is bigger than what the bible has to say about Him. Does not the OT speak of the Book of Jasher, the Book of the Acts of Solomon, book of Samuel the seer, the book of Nathan the Prophet, and Gad the seer? were we not told to search the scriptures? There is more to know than we have access to currently. The point is, we can learn more about God and Christ than what is in the bible. But, in going about our research, we will come across gobbledygook as well as gems of truth. The way we distinguish fact from fiction is with the aid of personal revelation as provided by and companionship of the Holy Ghost, not just the understanding and consensus of learned men. This isn't doctrinal, but just a fact, at least as I see it. It doesn't mean people who disagree are going to hell or anything like that. Its just another tool to use or not use.

Matthew Bellisario said...

JL, it seems to me that you have to come up with a lot of excuses to argue for your religion. You are basically asking us all to ignore history and trust what you and your so called "prophets" are telling us. The entire testimony of the Church Fathers attests to the continuing apostolic priesthood throughout the ages. No amount of twisting this fact can change it. The fact remains that you cannot prove that this "great apostasy" ever happened.

You wrote, "I suggest you get away from traditional Christian writers." To whom then do we turn to if not the Christian writers of the first centuries of the Church who are witnesses to the continuing apostolic priesthood? If you intend to deny them their testimony then you are denying the entire testimony to the authenticity of the New Testament. The same early Church Fathers that you want me to now ignore are the same ones that give testimony to its authenticity. To accept the New Testament canon is to accept the Church that comes with it.

JLFuller said...

Matt
By traditional Christian writers I was suggesting modern ones or the ones too often quoted as the sole authorities. Use writers as a pointer to other sources. Read a broad array of people who have an expert's eye for these matters even if they are merely historical in nature. I learn something every time I crack open a book or re-read a piece on the internet. I even read some Catholic writers and protestant writers. I particularly like Nibley because he quotes mostly non-LDS sources. Even so, in the end it is the promptings of the Holy Spirit that I seek, not the consensus of men.

JLFuller said...

I got away from my aim with the last post. Of course read whomever you want. I am not trying to change anyone's mind. I just want to set the record straight concerning what we believe and where it comes form. I think if you are going to to disagree with us it ought to be for the real reason and not some rumor or misunderstanding.